DC’s primary situation is a bit of a precarious one. For the first time in my life, I had to register with a party in order to vote in the primary. I’m not one to embrace the national parties, as there’s no room for nuance in their platforms. But here I was, registering Democrat this spring so that I could vote in the fall primaries for Mayor. Today, the DCBOEE heard a petition by Mayor Fenty to allow for independent voters in the primaries. This wasn’t a true “opening of the primaries,” but rather an end-around in order to give Fenty access to the 73,000 party-less voters that live mostly in Wards 1 and 2 where he is strongest.
The two sitting members of the board, including recently seated chair Togo West, kept an orderly and quick hearing on the proposal, and ruled that the independents have had plenty of time to change their party registration in order to vote in the September primary, but chose not to do so, and rejected the Mayor’s petition.
The difficult matter here has to do with the fact that in order to participate in the crucial elections in the District, you have to be registered as a Democrat. I don’t share much in common with the national party (though, truthfully, more in recent years than with Republicans), but here I am having to register as one in order to take part in the city’s biggest decision. This seems to me to be an odd choice that people would have to make in order to participate in a city’s governance. Why do we pay for the city’s democratic primary when it’s really the mayoral election? What chance does a candidate from another party really have? Why aren’t we just holding the big election in November and opening it to all? These are some questions we should be thinking about before the next election.